Expressing instructions and general statements with the impersonal se = one

In Spanish we use the impersonal pronoun se as "one" in order to explain general statements. The verb is conjugated in the 3rd person singular.

Have a look at these examples:

Se vive bien en Mérida.
One lives well in Merida.

Se come bien en la playa.
One eats well at the beach.

Se duerme mejor con la conciencia tranquila.
One sleeps better with a clear conscience.

Se está a gusto aqui.
One is comfortable here.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Se está a gusto aqui.
One is comfortable here.


Se duerme mejor con la conciencia tranquila.
One sleeps better with a clear conscience.


Se come bien en la playa.
One eats well at the beach.


Se vive bien en Mérida.
One lives well in Merida.


Q&A

Amy

Kwiziq community member

8 December 2018

2 replies

One vs. You

I feel like in modern English, we don't say 'one' does something, but rather, it's expressed using 'you' in the sentence without being a personal statement or piece of advice. 

Would this be a reasonable translation/interpretation?

Se duerme mejor con la conciencia tranquila.

- One sleeps better with a clear conscience.

- You sleep better with a clear conscience. 

The second sentence is not necesarily a personal statement. It can also be said impersonally like a general statement. 

I find that when I'm speaking Spanish, I over use 'you' too much in phrases like this because the sentence structure of 'one should...' doesn't occur to me. However, I can recognize the statement is impersonal while I'm saying it. 

It would be helpful to know if this is the structure I should be using in these situations. 

PS. I'm not referring to passing the quizzes but more for the knowledge of how to use this better in real communication. 

Gracias!

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

8 December 2018

8/12/18

Hola Amy,

It is a bit tricky sometimes which structure to choose in English when dealing with an impersonal sentence. We chose "one does" in this case but as you say using "you do..." would also be right. The other option would probably be "People do...[in general]". In Spanish you could also use the 2nd person singular for this as if referring to a general statement but I think it would have to be in a more specific scenario, for example, imagine I am explaining to a friend all the very good things about a course I am doing and then my friend asks ¿y en ese curso conoces a mucha gente nueva?, and I answer "Sí, conoces a mucha gente nueva y además de todas las edades". So, obviously, he is not asking if "I" meet lots of new people, but if "one meets" lots of new people, but he is using the "tú" form. 

So, yes, I think in many cases it is quite safe to also use the tú form to express an impersonal sentence.

I hope this helps.

Gracias y un saludo

Inma

Amy

Kwiziq community member

9 December 2018

9/12/18

Thanks Inma. It gives some clarity to when and how it's used in real life :)

Gail

Kwiziq community member

25 October 2017

1 reply

Should the lesson say se comes before 3rd person singular and plural verbs?

The lesson says that when using se the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person singular, yet in the quiz, the verb bailar was conjugated as bailan. Does this mean the lesson should say 3rd person singular and plural?

Silvia

Kwiziq language super star

20 November 2017

20/11/17

Dear Gail, thanks a lot for your question and sorry about our delay. The lesson above is about using the impersonal "se" + a verb in the 3rd person singular. However, if the verb is conjugated in the 3rd person plural, we are dealing not with an impersonal sentence, but with a passive sentence instead. Therefore, in the quiz you can find "se" followed by the 3rd person singular or plural depending on the context. I hope this explanation makes more sense to you and do not hesitate to contact us again if you need further help.

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